Jury: Oculus Owes $500M in Copyright Case

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 02, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The reality may be virtual, but the jury's verdict is very real. Oculus VR, makers of the Rift virtual reality headset, along with founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe, were found to have violated a nondisclosure agreement as well as copyright infringement and false designation in a legal rift with ZeniMax Media. And now Oculus -- or more accurately its new owner, Facebook -- owe ZeniMax half a billion dollars.

Here's a breakdown of the jury's verdict, along with the verdict itself:

Writing a Reality Check

John Carmack, currently CTO at Oculus, started his video game company id Software back in 1991, and ZeniMax acquired the company in 2009. ZeniMax claims that Carmack developed much of the VR technology before his move, and asserted the company "provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings."

ZeniMax was essentially looking for an ownership stake in Oculus before it was snatched up by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, but when those talks broke down, filed suit. The Dallas, Texas jury found Luckey violated the terms of a non-disclosure agreement, and that Oculus was guilty of false designation and copyright infringement, to the tune of $500 million:

  • Oculus was ordered to pay $200 million for the NDA violation, $50 million for false designation, and $50 million for copyright infringement;
  • Iribe was ordered to pay $150 million for false designation; and
  • Luckey was ordered to pay $50 million for false designation.

Dodging a Virtual Bullet

The most serious claim of the lawsuit was that Oculus stole trade secrets, which may have led to ZeniMax's request for $6 billion. The jury didn't go that far, much to the relief of Facebook, who said in a statement:

The heart of this case was about whether Oculus stole ZeniMax's trade secrets, and the jury found decisively in our favor. We're obviously disappointed by a few other aspects of today's verdict, but we are undeterred. Oculus products are built with Oculus technology. Our commitment to the long term success of VR remains the same, and the entire team will continue the work they've done since day one -- developing VR technology that will transform the way people interact and communicate. We look forward to filing our appeal and eventually putting this litigation behind us.

You can read a more complete breakdown of the relationship between Oculus and ZeniMax here, and see the complete jury verdict below:

Zenimax Media v. Oculus VR and Facebook by FindLaw on Scribd

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